Rural crime rate drops in Alberta

Cases of rural property crime have decreased in Alberta since the province partnered with the RCMP to establish new units to tackle the issue.

Following her speech to rural representatives at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention, Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley said property crime across rural Alberta has dropped by 11 percent.

She said the decrease means 366 fewer break-ins, 648 fewer vehicle thefts and 2,400 fewer thefts of other property, but there’s still more work to be done to tackle the issue.

“We’re having an impact on bringing down statistics, but it hasn’t affected every area equally,” she said, speaking with reporters via teleconference.

“It continues to be a concern and we are willing to work with RCMP partners, ensuring we are being constantly vigilant in doing the best job we can.”

The province unveiled a rural crime strategy in early 2018 to deal with growing concerns over thefts and break-and-enters.

As part of the strategy, it created four rural crime reduction units in the province, which serve specific regions. The units contain a specialized group of RCMP officers who focus on chronic offenders in their areas, freeing up time for local detachments to deal with other pressing issues in their communities.

As well, the province established separate units to deal with calls and data collection, allowing officers to spend more time in the field rather than behind a desk.

Ganley said the new call-back unit saved more than 9,000 hours of officer time, which represents a workload of about nine general-duty constables per year.

“The RCMP worked hard on this and we’re seeing the results,” she said.

“We’re proud of the job they are doing to move us forward on this issue.”

Despite the improvement, crime continues to take a toll on rural communities.

During the convention, some rural delegates wondered if peace officers or sheriffs could help deal with crime. In response, Ganley said the government is looking at ways to potentially allow that, though there have been no firm commitments.

The United Conservative Party has recommended that the Criminal Code of Canada be changed to support the use of force for self-defence, but Ganley said she supports the RCMP’s position on the issue, which is to let police officers deal with law enforcement.

Conservative MPs from Alberta have suggested exploring the idea of replacing RCMP service contracts with a provincial police force, but Ganley said now would not be the best time to launch one.

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